James Hardie ordered to compensate Matthew Werfel, 42, who inadvertently sanded asbestos sheets at his home in the mid-2000s
Australian Associated Press
A terminally ill South Australian man has been awarded a record $3m payout after he was exposed to asbestos dust, including while renovating his home.
Matthew Werfel, 42, will receive $3,077,187 – the largest amount ever awarded to an asbestos victim in Australia – after the building materials company James Hardie was found to have failed to warn the public about risks posed by their cement products.
Lawyers for Werfel lodged a claim against James Hardie – now known as Amaca – in the South Australian employment tribunal seeking damages after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017.
Werfel had been exposed to asbestos dust while working for a fencing contractor as a teenager and later in the mid-2000s during renovations on his Pooraka home.
Over three or four weekends, he sanded and painted the home, unaware it was constructed from asbestos cement sheets.
“By the time of Mr Werfel’s exposure there can be no doubt that Amaca knew the risk that was posed to renovators,” Judge Leonie Farrell said in her judgment on Tuesday.
In addition to awarding compensation for pain and suffering, future economic loss, medical expenses and loss of life expectancy, Farrell imposed exemplary damages on the company, as a deterrent to other firms.
“Amaca breached its duty of care to a large class of Australians, of which Mr Werfel was a member,” Farrell said.
“The magnitude of the risk of members of this class contracting mesothelioma was vast. The consequences of the risk were the deaths of many Australians. The probability of the risk occurring was certain.
“It had occurred in the past and the numbers were increased to the knowledge of Amaca. Amaca had the resources with which it could and should have taken steps to minimise or obviate the risk of death in this class.”
Werfel welcomed the payout but feared many home renovators were still exposed to the dangerous fibre.
“On the one hand, this outcome is a great relief, knowing that my family will be taken care of,” he said in a statement.
“But it’s heartbreaking to think how many people continue to be exposed, without their knowledge, to asbestos in their homes and workplaces.”
His lawyer Annie Hoffman said the case had significant implications for people exposed to asbestos in their homes, workplaces and in the community.
She said the case confirmed James Hardie’s duty of care continues even decades later.
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The death toll from asbestos exposure has reached crisis levels in Britain, the Guardian has learned, as people pay the price for “criminal failings by industry and government” made decades ago.
Asbestos-related cancers can occur as many as 50 years after exposure and deaths are now thought to be reaching their peak, years after the widespread industrial use of the carcinogen between the 1950s and 70s.
According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released this week, in 2017 there were 2,523 deaths from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the organs caused almost exclusively by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. This is a similar number to the previous five years.
Rates of mesothelioma, which is almost always fatal, nearly doubled between 1995, when there were 1,317 cases, and 2017. More than half of deaths from mesothelioma were people over 75 and 82% were men.
It is estimated that a similar number of people die from asbestos-related lung cancers, but this cannot be so accurately measured as establishing a cause for lung cancer is more difficult.
The HSE predicts that annual numbers will continue at current levels for the rest of this decade before starting to decline, though it has previously anticipated earlier falls.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, was widely used in the UK as insulation and a fire retardant. The import and use of blue and brown asbestos was banned in 1985, while white asbestos, which is thought to be less dangerous, was banned in 1999.
Deaths from mesothelioma are high among people who worked in the shipbuilding and construction industries – especially carpenters, plumbers and electricians – as well as those who worked in factories that produced asbestos products.
Roger Maddocks, a partner with the law firm Irwin Mitchell LLP who specialises in workplace injuries and illness, said: “In many cases people are now paying the price for criminal failings by industry and the government, who were responsible for the lack of action on the part of the Factory Inspectorate [the precursor to the HSE].”
Maddocks said the Factory Inspectorate knew by the end of the 19th century that heavy exposure to asbestos carried the risk of life-threatening respiratory disease and that by the 1960s it was public knowledge that exposure to small amounts of the substance carried the risk of mesothelioma.
“Despite that people continued to be exposed, and in many cases heavily exposed, for years if not decades after the mid-60s,” he said.
An HSE spokesperson said that while controls on the use of blue asbestos were introduced by 1970, the dangers of brown asbestos were not appreciated until well into that decade. The heavy use of brown asbestos is a key reason why the UK, along with Australia, has the highest mesothelioma rates in the world.
“With the benefit of hindsight it is now obvious that it should have been banned earlier but the specific evidence about brown asbestos was slower to emerge and at the time it would have been more difficult to see this,” they said.
Analysis of data shared with the Guardian by the Royal College of Physicians found that NHS trusts in former industrial areas had diagnosed the highest numbers of mesothelioma cases in 2014 to 2016.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS foundation trust and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust diagnosed 118 each in that period. Leeds and Portsmouth diagnosed 107 and 106 respectively.
Guardian analysis of coroners’ figures found evidence of the huge toll that Britain’s industrial past has taken on the health of people across the country.
In Nottinghamshire, North Northumberland and Sunderland, one in four deaths examined by coroners were found to be caused by “industrial disease”. A large proportion of these deaths are thought to be asbestos-related, though they will also include conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and silicosis.
There were 2,709 “deaths by industrial disease” recorded by coroners in England and Wales in 2018, a 44% rise on the 1,878 recorded in 1995, the earliest available figure. Nine percent of all deaths recorded by coroners in 2018 were caused by industrial disease.
Jo Ritson, from the asbestos victims’ support group that covers South Yorkshire and north Nottinghamshire, said demand for its services was going up, yet every year it struggled to get funding. It saw 117 clients in 2011-12, and 298 in 2017-18. It saw 192 people up to May this year.
Ritson said the reactions of her clients to the news that they had mesothelioma varied. “For some people it hits them like a bolt out of the blue and they find it really difficult to understand that what they did as a young man in their 20s or while doing their apprenticeships is now ruining the retirement that they worked towards all their lives,” she said.
“But others tend to know it’s coming because they’ve seen a lot of their colleagues die from asbestos-related disease. For a lot of them it’s like a ticking clock and they don’t know whether it’s going to hit them or not.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Since the dangers of asbestos became clear, governments have, over many years, brought in regulations and legislation. Asbestos is banned in construction and the risks of exposure today are extremely low.”
It added that it took its responsibility to compensate people with mesothelioma very seriously, automatically awarding the maximum rate of industrial injuries disablement benefit and awarding lump sum compensation of up to £92,000, depending on a person’s age.
‘Just because it is banned doesn’t mean it’s gone’
Mavis Nye, 78, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, more than 50 years after being exposed to asbestos dust on her husband’s overalls from his work as an apprentice at Chatham dockyard in Kent.
“He used to come home with it all in his hair and on his clothes,” she said. “It was just dust to me. So you’d shake it off and you put it in the washing machine and that’s it.”
Nye is one of thousands of people every year to be diagnosed with mesothelioma.
“When they first tell you you have mesothelioma you can’t even say the word so it doesn’t register,” said Nye. Writing on the website for the charity Mesothelioma UK, Nye’s husband, Ray, said: “How do I feel about the fact that it was me who has given her this sentence? Gutted, destroyed, sick and, yes, guilty.”
‘Pain is part and parcel of everyday life for me’
In 2015, John Chapman was preparing for the Mallorca 312, the longest amateur cycling event in Europe. He had been cycling about 6,000 miles a year and so put the fatigue he’d been starting to experience down to too much exercise and not enough recovery time.
During an appointment with a lung specialist, he was asked if he had had any past exposure to asbestos. “I said I had. In my early days I’d spent 10 years working in a foundry,” said Chapman.
He was diagnosed with mesothelioma when he was 54. Now, aged 57, he has outlived many expectations. “It’s like being committed to a death row sentence in that you know there is going to be a point in time after which you are not going to get past, based on statistics and life expectancies,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast.”
He now has only a fifth of his lung capacity in his left lung and a bone tumour the size of an Easter egg. “Pain is unfortunately part and parcel of everyday life for me,” he said. “I have a Macmillan nurse who comes out and sees me and we are constantly adjusting and amending pain medications to try and offset the pain you get.”
While Chapman and Nye are angry that they were exposed to the substance when there was already evidence it was dangerous, both are primarily concerned with the fact that asbestos is still all around us.
“Just because it is banned doesn’t mean it’s gone,” says Nye. “It hasn’t. It’s everywhere. It’s in buildings that are forever being pulled down and refurbished, which can make it airborne … We need to educate the young because they think it’s a problem of the past.”
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Following the news that the potentially deadly material is present in more than 5,000 English primary schools, across the 105 local authorities, we look at what asbestos is and what problems it can cause.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been a popular building material since the 1950s.
It is used as an insulator (to keep in heat and keep out cold), has good fire protection properties and protects against corrosion.
Asbestos could be present in any building that was built or refurbished before the year 2000. It is in many of the common materials used in the building trade, including ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, boilers and sprayed coatings.
The following are examples of some of the more common uses of asbestos in buildings:
Sprayed coating – found as fire protection on structural supports (for example, columns and beams) – it is a high hazard asbestos product and can generate very high fibre levels if disturbed
Pipe insulation – asbestos thermal pipe lagging is a high hazard asbestos product
Asbestos insulating board (AIB) ceiling and door panels – AIB is a high hazard asbestos product and can generate high levels of fibres if the board is cut or drilled
AIB window panel – like other AIB, this is a high hazard asbestos product, and if in good condition should be left undisturbed
Floor tiles – vinyl (PVC) or thermoplastic tiles contain asbestos
Asbestos cement roof sheeting – asbestos cement sheeting is often found on industrial building roofs and walls
Textured decorative coating (such as Artex) – textured coatings contain a small amount of asbestos – the asbestos is well bonded and fibres are not easily released – however, it is still an asbestos product, and as such, needs to be worked with safely.
What is the danger?
Asbestos is a hidden killer that can cause four serious diseases:
Mesothelioma – a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.
Asbestos-related lung cancer – is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.
Asbestosis – a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.
Pleural thickening – generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.
Removal and disposal of asbestos:
Asbestos which is in good condition should normally be left undisturbed.
Where it is necessary to remove it, this work must be carried out by a specialist contractor who is licensed to do this type of work.
You can’t see or smell asbestos fibres in the air.
The effects of being exposed to asbestos may take many years to show up – avoid breathing it in now.
People who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Asbestos is only a danger when fibres are made airborne and breathed in.
As long as the asbestos is in good condition and it is located somewhere where it can’t be easily damaged then it shouldn’t be a risk.
THURSDAY, July 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — A new U.S. government rule on asbestos is at best a toothless measure against the cancer-causing material, critics charge.
The rule, laid out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), went into effect in June. The agency says it was designed to strengthen decades-old public health protections.
But two former government officials said the rule does nothing to address the continued use of asbestos in the United States. At worst, they argued, it actually creates “loopholes” that, in theory, could expand asbestos use in the future.
Writing in the July 10 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors instead call for a complete ban on the material.
“Over 60 countries have banned asbestos,” said co-author Richard Lemen, a former deputy director of the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “It’s far past time the U.S. got on board with the rest of the world — especially when there are alternatives to asbestos.”
Asbestos is a mineral that naturally exists as bundles of fibers. For decades, it was mined and used in many industries, owing to its strength and resistance to heat and fire. It found its way into everything from cement, roofing and tiles, to insulation and fireproofing, to paints, coatings and adhesives, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI).
“And it’s been a 100-year man-made disaster,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the non-profit Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
The good news is that a full ban is in sight, Lemen pointed out: The Alan Reinstein “Ban Asbestos Now” bill — named for Linda Reinstein’s late husband — is currently before both houses of Congress.
Reinstein said it has bipartisan support and that she’s “very optimistic” about its chances of passing.
How does asbestos do its damage? Breathing in tiny asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs, and raise the risk of deadly cancers of the lung, throat and ovaries.
Today, Lemen said, most Americans who die of asbestos-related diseases were either exposed years ago, or — through their jobs — are regularly exposed to asbestos installed decades ago.
People in certain jobs are at greatest risk, the NCI says: They include construction and demolition workers, shipyard workers and firefighters.
To be sure, asbestos use in the United States has plummeted since the 1960s.
However, Lemen said, a complete ban has remained elusive. The EPA tried back in 1989, he noted, but the ban was overturned in court.
Instead, the EPA was able to ban a handful of specific uses, while industry phased out most others. Today, it persists primarily in the chlor-alkali industry, which uses asbestos in producing chlorine and caustic soda.
The new EPA rule restricts 19 categories of asbestos use — in products like floor tile, roofing and adhesives. Those uses have all been long abandoned by industry. But they were not included in the 1989 ban, and the EPA says the new rule will prevent manufacturers from bringing them back.
But to Reinstein’s group, and other environmental and health advocates, the rule is an empty gesture: Reinstein questioned the notion that manufacturers would want to reintroduce a long-abandoned material widely known as a killer.
She described the EPA move as “throwing us a bone, rather than giving us a ban.”
It does nothing, she said, to curb the major remaining use of asbestos by the chlor-alkali industry.
The EPA did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2018, the United States imported about 750 metric tons of asbestos, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It’s imported because asbestos is no longer mined here.
Where does it come from? Russia — one of the world’s top asbestos producers, Lemen noted.
To Reinstein, it’s “outrageous” that the chlor-alkali industry has successfully lobbied to keep asbestos use alive in the United States. “There is no safe or controlled use for asbestos,” she said.
According to Lemen, nothing short of an asbestos ban is sufficient. At worst, he said, the new EPA rule leaves a door open to wider use — since it details a review process by which companies can seek to use the toxic mineral.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on asbestos.
SOURCES: Richard Lemen, Ph.D., former deputy director, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and former assistant surgeon general, U.S. Public Health Service; Linda Reinstein, president, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, Redondo Beach, Calif.; July 10, 2019, New England Journal of Medicine, online
Opening date set for refurbished Rothesay Pavilion
The long-awaited re-opening of Rothesay Pavilion is now due to take place in September, five weeks later than planned, a new report has revealed.
The refurbishment of the iconic building has been hit by delays as a result of weather and construction issues, which mean it will miss its target of opening by Wednesday, July 31.
A report for a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s Bute and Cowal area committee now lists the Pavilion’s scheduled opening date as Tuesday, September 3 – even though barely half of the work has been completed.
The report by project manager Jonathan Miles says the project remains within its £10.6 million budget, but has been labelled complex and challenging due to the location, design, age and unique characteristics of the building. Mr Miles’ report also reveals that asbestos was found after a part of the ceiling in the Pavilion’s main hall collapsed during construction work.
Mr Miles said: “Seventy-nine per cent of the contract duration has expired and with only 52 per cent of the work completed to date the main contractor remains behind programme.
“This has been primarily caused due to works e.g. undercroft excavation, roof replacement, cast stone repairs and cast stone coping replacement, not having progressed at the same speed, due to weather and complexity challenges.
“It should be noted that there was a marked drop in overall performance during the quarter as noted above.
“This was due in part to the weather impacting on external roof, stone replacement works and partial collapse of the auditorium perimeter ceiling which restricted access to certain parts of the building.
“With regard to the ceiling, a comprehensive survey has been undertaken to understand the root cause of the collapse, including sample analysis which has confirmed the presence of asbestos.
“Weather has continued to interrupt external envelope works both to the roof and wall elevations. For example, only 64 per cent of roof works have been completed.
“Despite the main contractors’ best endeavours, maintaining the water tightness and integrity of the structure has been challenging, with a consequential impact on internal fit-out progress.
“An inspection of the main hall and stage floors has noted water penetration, and a follow up specialist survey will be undertaken, subject to entry into the hall following asbestos removal works.”
Mr Miles also reported that the Rothesay Pavilion Charity was looking unlikely to meet its fundraising target of £400,000 by the end of June. It currently has £132,000 secured, with a forecast total of £298,000 being in the coffers within the target time.
Argyll and Bute Council may be able to step in to make up the shortfall – but that will depend on a decision taken by its members.
Mr Miles added: “Whilst the charity is using its best endeavours to try and achieve its capital contribution target, it is becoming evident the charity will not close the gap by June 2019.
“The council previously agreed to underwrite the charity’s capital fundraising target pending successful funding applications.
“In view of the forecast shortfall the council will need to make a decision to release budget to sustain the charity until the building construction contract is complete.”
Rothesay Pavilion declined the opportunity to comment. However, an Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: Work continues on what will be a fantastic asset for Bute, with everyone involved in the Rothesay Pavilion project determined to ensure it’s a facility the community can be proud of.
“The complex nature of this scale of project on an A-listed building nearing 100-years-old means surprises can arise and cause a delay. Specifically, asbestos in the existing main hall ceiling is in far worse condition than surveys led us to believe. As a result, we’ve had to appoint specialist contractors to remove it, as opposed to undertaking localised repairs as was previously envisaged.
“While this has a knock-on effect for the project overall, the safety of future users of the building must come first.
“We thank the community for their patience and understanding, and we look forward to delivering a sustainable and much-loved Pavilion for Rothesay.”
Global Roofing Chemicals Market – Increasing Need for Thermal Management in Buildings to Drive Growth| Technavio
A major trend being observed in the market is the rising development of bio-based roofing chemicals. With the increasing concerns about toxic effects of synthetic chemical-based roofing products on the environment and humans, the need for developing bio-based and sustainable roofing products is rising at a high rate. Many consumers across the globe are looking for greener, bio-based or natural chemistries to replace petrochemical-based products.
In this report, Technavio analysts highlight the growing need for thermal management in buildings as a key factor contributing to the growth of the global roofing chemicals market:
Growing need for thermal management in buildings
With the rising sustainable living standards and growing middle-class population, the need for reducing the carbon footprint of houses has increased. This has fueled the demand for roofing chemicals. Roofing chemicals are highly efficient for the thermal management of buildings. These chemicals provide high reflectivity properties to the roofs, thereby lowering the temperature of the houses.
According to a senior analyst at Technavio forconstruction, “The use of roofing chemicals on the rooftops reduces the energy consumption by keeping the temperature low and results in reduced carbon emissions. Reflective roof chemicals shield the roofing materials from UV light also. Roofing chemicals can extend the lifespan of roofs, reduce the cooling energy costs by 20% to 70%, and can also reduce air pollution. The necessity for cool non-white coatings arose as dark colors absorb more heat and are also aesthetically appealing.”
Technavio’s sample reports are free of charge and contain multiple sections of the report such as the market size and forecast, drivers, challenges, trends, and more.
Roofing chemicals – market segmentation
This market research report segments the global roofing chemicals market into the following products (asphalt/bituminous, acrylic resin, epoxy resin, and elastomer) and key regions (the Americas, APAC, and EMEA). It provides an in-depth analysis of the prominent factors influencing the market, including drivers, opportunities, trends, and industry-specific challenges.
Of the four major products, the asphalt/bituminous segment held the largest market share in 2017, accounting for nearly 41% of the market. The market share of this segment is expected to increase by almost 1% during the forecast period.
APAC dominated the global roofing chemicals market in 2017, accounting for a market share of around 40%. This region is anticipated to post the fastest growth during the forecast period.
An expectant mum from Northampton is saying enough is enough to her housing association after, she claims, asbestos has been found in her roof.
Jade Fuller, 25, of Billing Road has been living in her property for nine years. But on Friday, after builders arrived to fix a leaky bedroom light, which has been dripping since April 1, she says she discovered her property had been insulated with asbestos.
But upon voicing her concerns about the potentially deadly substance, Jade says no-one has been out to see her since.
She said: “I rang them Friday – I said ‘what’s going on about the roof?’ And they said ‘we believe there’s asbestos in the roof, we can’t send anyone out until we’ve had it checked.
“They put me in a hotel from Friday until Tuesday, just gone, and they’ve still not made it safe.”
While she was away – the mum-to-be was at least expecting her leaky bedroom light to be fixed and for the asbestos to be cleared – but she says nothing has changed.
“They’ve done nothing and I’m just made to come back here,” she added.
Jade, who is six weeks pregnant, is calling on Orbit to move her to a safer property for her and her soon-to-be infant.
“It’s scary because I’m pregnant as well now, it’s not great. I don’t want to be here – I don’t want to live here at all – it’s not a nice place to live.
“I want to move really. I’ve asked them for an urgent transfer, or anything, and they’re saying ‘I don’t think we can do that’.
“But I’m just supposed to be left in a property that’s unsafe?”
Jade’s living room also has mould on the ceiling and around the windows.
“I suffer with depression and anxiety, mainly since I’ve been living here.”
Neil Yeomans, head of property compliance at Orbit said: “We want all of our customers to live in homes that are secure and comfortable, and we apologise to Miss Fuller for the inconvenience this has caused.
“However, we wanted to make absolutely sure that her home is safe and can confirm that at no time were Miss Fuller and her partner in any danger of breathing in asbestos fibres.
“We temporarily relocated her and her partner as a precautionary measure.
A surveyor attended her home again yesterday (Wednesday) to confirm exactly what was needed to complete the roof repair, which Orbit say they plan to carry out as soon as possible.
A HOUSING association has come under fire from a resident who is concerned about asbestos and repair “delays”.
Gwyn Roberts, 62, lives indepenedently in the Felin Uchaf complex in Dolgellau along with several other elderly or vulnerable residents.
After retiring early due to medical issues, Mr Roberts moved into his property, maintained by Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (CCG), five years ago.
In those five years, the 62-year-old claims he has faced an uphill battle to get his flat to an acceptable living standard and to get CCG to even respond to his complaints.
“My roof, and several others around here, has been leaking like a sieve for a long time now,” Mr Roberts told the Cambrian News.
“I’ve made numerous complaints and it’s only through constant nagging that anything is getting done.
“After 18 months of perpetual pestering I’ve managed to get them to replace my roof and my neighbouring flats too but we’re the only ones as far as I can see.
“They’ve told us to stay indoors whilst the work is ongoing as there’s asbestos in the roof – they won’t tell me what kind – so that begs the question of whether a leaky roof with asbestos in it is safe?
“I’ve spoken to other residents about it and they’ve expressed their concern too.
“I’ve seen the state of some of the roofing timbers throughout the site, something serious will happen unless the proper measures are taken.”
A CCG spokesperson said: “Many houses constructed before 1999 contain asbestos materials. When we commission any works that disrupt the fabric of the building, we check for the presence of asbestos and, if found, appropriate action is taken.
“Asbestos-related material was present in the roof of 6 and 7 Felin Uchaf and specialist contractors were appointed to have it removed.
“Following an inspection, it was also identified that the most viable solution for these properties was to completely replace the roofs.
“We have appointed contractors who are currently working on site.”
This post was taken from http://www.cambrian-news.co.uk/article.cfm?id=118846&headline=Retired%20resident%20troubled%20by%20asbestos%20in%20%E2%80%98leaking%E2%80%99%20roof§ionIs=news&searchyear=2018